Thursday, July 15, 1999

John Duncanson

p. A8.

Police watchdog vindicates union, president says

Toronto chief counters that main beef about force discipline not proven

The Toronto Police Association is claiming victory in its battle to bring much-needed change to the force's flawed internal discipline system.

Armed with a new government report recommending that police overhaul the way they mete out punishment, police union president Craig Bromell was ready to tell a news conference yesterday the union has been vindicated in its complaint about police command.

But Bromell had to cancel the conference to rush to hospital to await word on the fate of an officer shot in the face during an altercation on Highway 401 near Avenue Rd.

In a brief interview before the shooting took over events of the day, Bromell called the report by the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services a good start to fix a disciplinary system officers feel is unfair and lacks credibility.

Last April, Bromell and his union executives took the unprecedented step of formally asking the province's main police watchdog to investigate how police brass handle discipline.

The civilian commission delivered its findings in a 60-page report this week. the union didn't get everything it wanted but the commission's message was clear.

It found the Toronto force discipline system unfair to both police officers and the public, and strongly recommended it be fixed quickly.

The commission, which has broad powers to inquire into and make changes to how police forces are run, has given Toronto police until year's end to respond.

For its part, the force moved swiftly yesterday to assure officers and the public it was taking the report very seriously.

In a news release, Chief David Boothby said managers responsible for force discipline will meet in the next few days to discuss ways to implement the 13 recommendations.

In an interview, Boothby called the report "helpful and balanced."

But he took issue with the way the report was covered by some media, including The Star. "One of the headlines I saw this morning didn't reflect the report. I don't think the brass were slammed," he said.

The chief was also quick to point out the commission found no clear evidence that rank-and-file members are somehow treated worse than senior command when it comes to discipline. That claim was one of the cornerstones of the union's complaint.

"We are pleased that… (the commission) determined the allegations from the initial complaint are not supported by any findings," Boothby said in the news release.

He acknowledged the report "makes other observations that may have contributed to these perceptions" of a double discipline standard.

The commission found the discipline system to be overly complex and fair to neither rank-and-file officers nor the public.

The review also criticized senior command for the handling of the force's troubled firearms registration unit.

Internal documentation showed serious problems existed in the unit for some time before a criminal investigation was launched. The probe eventually led to charges against five civilian members of the unit.

'I don't think the brass were slammed.'
— David Boothby Toronto police chief

The commission also chastised the force and the police board for failing to adequately address recommendations stemming from past inquiries into force discipline. Some of the recommendations in the report have been made before, but never implemented — something the commission pointed out.

If the force chooses to once again ignore or put off changes, sources say the province is prepared to take stronger action to ensure this report doesn't collect dust on a shelf.

The commission recommended police board members get more training to properly oversee the force.

That recommendation was welcomed yesterday by Councillor Norm Gardner, chair of the police services board. He had been complaining for months that his colleagues have to make more effort to attend courses.

"Board members should take the initiative to take those training (courses) and there are some board members that have not done that to the satisfaction of the solicitor-general's department or mine," said Gardner (North York Centre).

The commission also recommended the force ensure better accountability within its discipline system and guarantee internal charges against officers are dealt with more swiftly, with hearings within 60 days of the completion of investigations.

Gardner said he is already working to streamline the system.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: October 9, 2000
Last modified: October 9, 2000
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